WASHINGTON - Replenishing Israel's defensive Iron Dome system is in the best interest of American national security, US President Joe Biden's Ambassador to Israel nominee Thomas Nides told the Senate Committee for Foreign Relations.
"This is a defensive mechanism. It is to stop rockets from raining in on Israel. We are supportive of the replenishment and it is in our national security interest," said Nides, who spoke to the committee on Wednesday.
He said that the president supports Iron Dome funding, which supports "a very important ally in the region."
Nides spoke as House majority leader Steny Hoyer vowed to bring a suspension bill to the House floor later to provide $1 billion in Iron Dome funding.
At the committee hearing, Nides vowed to support the Abraham Accords, to oppose BDS and to continue “advancing the bonds between our people,” including the Visa Waiver Program.
Nides appeared before the committee alongside four other nominees for different State Department positions. A vote on their respective nominations is expected to take place at another date.
“The United States remains unwavering in its commitment to Israel’s security, supported by our 10-year, $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding,” he said.
Speaking about the Iranian threat, Nides said that Biden “has made clear his commitment to ensure that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon,” and that “upholding Israel’s security serves America’s national security interests and ensures that we will always have a strong, reliable and secure partner.”
Nides also said that the US is committed “to advancing the bonds between our people,” and mentioned that “President Biden announced we will work with Israel in hopes of them joining the Visa Waiver Program.”
He also mentioned the strategic competition with China, calling it “a defining feature of the 21st century.” The United States views close cooperation with Israel on foreign investment risk management “as a down payment on our security and intelligence partnership,” he said.
“We must continue to oppose all efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel internationally,” said Nides. “If confirmed, while respecting the rights of all Americans to free speech, I will continue the tireless work of this administration to firmly reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and boycott laws which unfairly single out Israel.”
He praised the normalization of ties between Israel and four Arab countries. “The Abraham Accords are critical to regional stability and prosperity,” he said. “I will personally support every effort to expand cooperation among Israel and countries in the Arab and Muslim world, and I hope to strengthen the Abraham Accords and identify opportunities to expand Israel’s relations with additional countries in the Arab and Muslim world.
“While we work to support normalization between Israel and other countries, it is not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and we seek to harness existing and future agreements to make tangible improvements for the Palestinian people with a view to preserving the vision of a negotiated two-state solution,” he continued. “I am committed to doing my part to rebuild the partnership between the American and Palestinian peoples.”
WITH RESPECT to Jerusalem, Nides clarified that he plans to live in the city if appointed to the post of ambassador.
Jerusalem is an issue of final status, which would be determined by Israelis and Palestinians through negotiations.
In the interim, the nominee said, "from the US perspective Jerusalem is the capital of Israel." He indicated that he supported the 1995 Congressional Embassy Act, which affirmed US backing for a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.
Nides said, however, that he supports the reopening of the Jerusalem General Consulate, which had acted as a de facto embassy to the Palestinian Authority until it was closed by the Trump administration in 2019. Biden has pledged to reopen it but has not yet set a date.
Israel has opposed the reopening of the consulate fearing that it harmed the status of Jerusalem as Israel's sovereign capital.
Nides said he believes that reopening the consulate had no bearing on US policy toward Jerusalem, particularly given that the American embassy was located in that city.
"It will have no impact on the capital of Israel being Jerusalem," he said.
Speaking about his personal background, Nides said: “I grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, the youngest of seven children. My parents were leaders in a vibrant but small Jewish community. We grew up believing that being Jewish was more than a religion, but a way of life.”
“Most importantly, my parents impressed upon my siblings and me the importance of giving back to our community and caring about others,” he said. “There is no greater honor than to be asked to strengthen the ties between the United States and the State of Israel. My many trips to Israel, both in government and the private sector, have strengthened my commitment to sustain Israel as a democratic and Jewish state at peace with its neighbors.”